Introducing a new cat to a resident cat
Cats can be friends, however introducing a new cat to an existing cat can take time and patience. Kittens are generally easier to introduce to one another, often becoming friends overnight. Throwing two adult cats into one environment straight away is asking for trouble, but with a carefully planned introduction, cats can ease into accepting one another and may become life long pals. A kitten is still a threat to many adult cats, so it is advised to introduce a cat and a kitten slowly as well.
Here are some tips to make the introduction go smoothly.
Keep your cats separated at first
Set up a special room for your new cat. This will provide her with a safe place to get used to her surroundings and enable you to control how and when your two cats meet each other. This room should have everything the cat needs – a litter tray, food and water, some hiding places, a scratching post and toys.
The two cats should be able to smell and hear each other. You can do this by feeding both cats near the door so they learn to associate the smell and sound of each other with a positive experience. Giving out treats near the door is also a good idea.
After 2-3 days, some cat experts recommend switching the cats’ locations so they can get used to each others’ smells.
Many behaviourists advise rubbing the cats with the same towel to mix their scents. Or use a clean sock to rub on the new cat’s face to capture her facial pheromones. Then leave the sock near the existing cat and let him investigate on his own.
After a few more days, the next step is to play with each of the cats near the door, building up positive associations with the scent of the other cat. This play also helps each cat associate the other cat with a good time.
Slowly let the cats see each other
If all seems to be going well and your cats aren’t hissing or growling under the door at each other, after a week, you can try visually introducing the cats. Installing a screen door or even a high baby gate (that neither cat can jump over) can work. It’s helpful to have another human with you so there is one person and one cat on each side of the barrier.
Continue feeding, playing with and giving the cats treats within view of the other cats, but don’t force it. If one cat won’t eat her food right next to the screen, try moving the food dish a few feet away. If both cats are eating comfortably, move the dishes closer.
Make the face-to-face introduction
The final step in the process is to let the cats be together, face-to-face, for supervised interaction. Don’t worry if the cats completely ignore each other or hiss a bit and then walk away. It will take some time for your cats to learn that the other is a friend, not an enemy. Keep watching the cats and let them take things at their own pace as long as no one is starting to bully or harass the other. Separate the cats at signs of hostilities, or great fear. Learn cat body language to tell when a problem is starting. Begin with supervised interactions, and if all is well, eventually allow them together unsupervised.
It may take time and a bit of patience but your efforts have a good chance of being rewarded in the long run when your cats become life-long companions.
Introducing a cat to a dog
Here is some advice on how to introduce a new cat to a resident dog.
Watch the dog
If there’s going to be a problem during cat and dog introductions, it’s usually caused by the dog. Most dogs will chase a moving object. So if a cat gets frightened and runs, a dog will often chase it. So it’s important to prevent that, otherwise the result can be injury, and even death, for the cat.
•Make sure your cat can run and hide if it wants to. The cat needs to be able to move freely when the introduction is made. There should be perches or elevated hidey holes, where the cat can get off the floor and settle in.
•Make sure your puppy or dog is well restrained. Your dog shouldn’t be able to chase, even if the cat darts away.
•Consider baby gates. Gates can help you gradually introduce dogs and cats, and the barrier minimises danger to the cat. A baby gate is often better than a cat carrier because it gives the cat freedom.
Age can make a difference
Puppies are much less dangerous to adult cats, and kittens can be quite fearless with adult dogs. The same safety rules still apply, though. When adding a kitten or a puppy, you may want to enforce separation longer or extend your period of supervision. That’s because kittens tend to scurry (an enticing behaviour for dogs) and puppies may try to pester the cat.
Here are some common mistakes you don’t want to make when introducing cats and dogs:
•Forcing physical proximity: Picking up your cat and holding it in your dog’s face by way of introduction will tempt your cat to scratch the dog and encourage the dog to not like the cat. Always let the cat decide when or if they will approach the dog.
•Not preparing your animals for change: Make changes before you bring your new cat home, like putting up a baby gate or closing certain doors. That way, your dog has a chance to get used to the changes before the new pet shows up.
•Not thinking about your animal’s reaction. For example, if the cat has to walk past the dog’s kennel to get to it and the dog is barking, that’s going to be stressful for the cat.